Thursday, June 11, 2015

Race Report: Mashed Potatoes 100

Erm, I mean the Mohican 100.

Team Grand Rapids setting up our camp

I've heard that boiled potatoes with a little bit of olive oil and sea salt are awesome when you're on the bike for an extended amount of time. I knew that the Mohican 100 would be really humid and I wanted to prevent having any gut rot that would prevent me from eating or drinking and getting the calories that I needed during those hundred miles. Sometimes when it's humid I crave salty and savory, and all of the drink mix and gummy things that I eat start sounding unappetizing and I have a hard time making myself eat and drink. Before loading up my gear and heading to meet up with my GRBC teammate (and now coworker!) Tyler Keuning for the drive down to Loudonville, Ohio, I boiled some potatoes, dressed them in oil and sea salt, and wrapped them in tinfoil: 3 lil guys for two drop bags, and 3 lil guys for my jersey pocket. Those potatoes, along with my Shot Bloks, Sports Beans, CarboRocket Rocketlytes, and CarboRocket Half Evil drink mix was my nutrition plan for a hot and humid 100 miles. That oughta do it, right?!

Roughing it

Flash forward to one of the hike-a-bikes up a loose clay climb: it was hot. It was humid. The man racing behind me started vomiting. I looked up and saw some turkey vultures circling around us. I swear I saw some human bones scattered on the trail (okay, okay, they were probably just deer bones.) It was all so crazy! I started laughing nervously. I told myself that I would eat my last jersey pocket potato once I made it to the top of the climb. It was my reward. All day long I had been rewarding myself with little treat ideas for pushing forward: Watermelon from the aid station, just make it a little further! Coca cola from the aid station, go get it! Ice cold lemonade from the gas station on the ride home, but you have to finish first! Get that finisher growler and take some IPA back home to Dan! Oh boy I wanted lemonade so bad. I made it to the top of the hike-a-bike and reached in to my sweaty back pocket. The tinfoil did not feel like a round, firm boiled potato... it was in patty form. A sure sign that the race had become about survival and not about speed. I was having a rough time, you guys, and my potato was mashed because the first 30 miles of single track had beaten me up and I had repeatedly fallen on it; mauling my precious little potato treat. What a disappointment to rally up a hike-a-bike, imagining eating your snack like a salty apple, only to find that it looks as haggard as you feel. I ate it anyways and started pedaling again. Potato, po-tah-to. I'll take it.

When the going gets tough, trust in your "go fast" sticker to get you across the finish line. Thanks, Dan!
For reals though, I'm really glad I did the Mohican 100! It was tough, it gave me bruises, it was hard, but it was also a lot of fun. Once the race became more about surviving and finishing, it became a growing experience. I'm still pretty inexperienced when it comes to slimy rocks and it was my first race on a full-suspension. I have a lot of learning to do! Honestly, I think I did pretty damn good holding my own out there, especially since I crashed so hard early on that I mangled my elbow and twisted my handlebars. I was bonking so hard. I couldn't quite figure out why I kept crashing when I'd try to roll over rocks or roots, and the moment of clarity where I realized it was because my bars were crooked was the point in the race where you can go one of two ways: 1) you can get down on yourself, decide to quit, and go back to bed, or 2) you can grab your multi-tool and straighten your bars, straighten your brake levers, adjust your headset, let a little bit of air out of your tires, ask a volunteer for some tape so you don't pack more dirt in to your bloody elbow, and you can find the humor in the fact that you're riding your bike with a bunch of really awesome like-minded individuals and that everyone is suffering a little bit and that's why you signed up for this race in the first place: to challenge yourself and to become a better mountain biker. And also to have fun. And also you thank your lucky stars that you remembered to bring your multi-tool. There was a man I passed through some singletrack who threw his head back and yelled at the sky in anguish and I hope he went with the latter option and wound up having a good time racing, too.

In my native habitat: food in mouth, minimal damage report, sweaty and muddy, laughing. Photo cred: Photoglyphix
I met some awesome people out there on bikes during the course that helped to perk me up quite a bit. I kept hot dogging with some ladies racing the 100k, and rode with them for a little ways on the gravel roads. It started to feel more like a group ride and it was cool to cheer for each other on the climbs. Sometimes I ride faster when I have someone to chat with, and this was one of those situations. One woman fell over from cramps going up a hill and I gave her some sticky snacks and Rocketlytes from my gas tank bag before continuing on. She had a really great attitude about the whole thing and I was really excited for her when I saw her roll across the finish line. There's a strong solidarity between female mountain bikers and I'm so lucky to be surrounded by these positive and kick ass riders. We're all out there rooting for each other and it makes me so happy to see other women stick with it and to hang tough: it encourages me to do the same.

The rest of the course consisted of more climbing, more gravel roads, some paved roads, more segments of single track, more hike-a-bikes, more turkey vultures, enthusiastic volunteers at aid stations, more humidity, a rail trail, a suspension bridge, some sun showers, some thunder and heavy rain, and a paved section towards the end where I saw signs for Maggie's Lemonade stand. YES YES YES YES YES YES! I felt like I had willed the lemonade stand to magically appear!! YESSSS. I saw a minivan with a girl sitting on the tailgate. YES! I saw a table. I SAW SOME ICE COLD MOTHER EFFIN LEMONADE. I honestly couldn't believe my luck. I pedaled eagerly towards it. Then I saw the sign, "$1.00." Nooooooooooooo. "Oh, are you selling lemonade?" I asked the little girl, hoping to look pathetic and for her to take pity on me and to give me a tiny dixie cup full of free lemonade. "One dollar." She wasn't going to budge. I really couldn't be mad at her for trying to get some lemonade bucks, and I really didn't want her to feel bad for disappointing me, so I tried smiling and wished her good luck and I kept going. Sigh. Po-tah-to.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed at the race start with my GR pals. Mike Bernhard, Tyler Keuning, and Tom Stritzinger
Finally I made it to the last aid station. Just a few more miles of single track was left and then I'd be at the finish line! The last bit of single track was the same trail that we had hit in the beginning of the race and I was a little nervous because I knew it'd be rocky. There were some dark clouds and I wanted to finish before those rocks got slimy again. I don't know if it's because I was in better spirits or if it was because the course was indeed easier in the opposite direction, but I felt like the course was immensely easier in the opposite direction!! I looked for chunks of my elbow on the rock that took me down and started the bonk in the first place. I didn't see anything. I didn't mean anything to that rock. I kept riding and saw that I was heading towards the campground. After coming out of the single track, I heard someone riding behind me. Out of the corner of my eye I recognized the jersey: it was one of my GRBC teammates! I turned to see who it was and saw that it was Jay Morrison! I hadn't seen him pass me at all, but for some reason thought that he had already finished the race or something and that he had seen me and rode from our campsite, so I started joking with him that we were going to have a sprint finish. Then I realized he hadn't finished and that he actually was sprinting past me! I started screaming and laughing and rolled across the finish line a few seconds behind him. Gah!! Lesson learned: never announce that there could be a sprint finish. (Congrats, Jay!)

Mohican 100 finisher! 11 hours, 11th female. Photo cred: Photoglyphix
After the Mohican 100, I'm incredibly excited for the Lumberjack 100. Despite beating my little Salsa Spearfish up, it was the best I've felt after crashing and riding over rocks. That bike is fast, comfortable, and awesome! I'm so excited to race it again next weekend! I can't wait! I'll bring more boiled potatoes, and here's to hoping they don't get mashed!